Cirque du Soleil soars with “Corteo”

The sound of a bass reverberates through the theatre and a haze of loose chalk fills the air as acrobats fly across the stage. As glitter rains gently from above, chandeliers swing, seesaws fling and tender duets flit delicately like the wings of a butterfly. The audience swells with excitement as they watch the synchronized motion of the performers, witnessing the bereaved bid a final farewell to their dear friend, Mauro.

“Corteo,” which means “procession” in Italian, is a Cirque du Soleil production about the joyous funeral of Mauro, the Dreamer Clown. This ambitious show is emblematic of the talent and hard work of the team behind Cirque du Soleil, as well as their numerous technical and physical feats.

There are about 20 Cirque du Soleil shows all around the world, with only one, “Corteo,” currently in North America, according to Senior Tour Director Michael Veilleux. Production Manager Ken Mills said “Corteo” is one of Cirque du Soleil’s most complex shows, with more than 110 performers and six flying rigs.

“You’ll see beds flying through the air with four angels flying with them. You’ll see bicycles flying through the air, all kinds of fun things,” Mills said.

Since “Corteo” is a traveling production moving weekly, the team must often assemble and disassemble their stage. Veilleux said that, although it’s sometimes stressful, he finds that the group’s work ethic, tight schedule and camaraderie helps keep the production running smoothly, though sometimes the crew faces outside factors that can’t be solved as easily.

“It usually takes us about three hours and 30 minutes [to build our stage],” Veilleux said. “We just came back from Europe, so that means [going through] immigration, that means [getting] work permits. For example, when we arrived in London, the prime minister had just resigned, so we hadn’t been able to get work permits yet, even though we were about to perform. We had to make some calls because we wouldn’t have been able to do the show. At times, it’s very stressful and very challenging, but we have a really good group here.”

David Henderson, one of the artists performing during the show, said things happen during live shows that cannot be anticipated, but that problem-solving plays a key role during performances.

“Performing on stage is incredibly fun,” Henderson said. “You have to think quickly and know how to troubleshoot [during live shows]. You have to roll with the punches. I have to be cognizant of the audience, making sure I am giving them enough love and energy as well.”

Not only did all these acts tell a beautiful story of celebrating joy in life rather than sadness, but they also showcased the incredible talent of the performers.

Veilleux said the magic of Cirque du Soleil lies in its devotion to humanity: showcasing emotion and the best of what people are capable of.

“[Cirque du Soleil] focuses on the human body and what the human can do,” said Veilleux. “Back in the ‘80s, this was just street performers who started a business. At the core of it all, it’s about human capabilities, pushing our limits and trying to evoke emotions.”